Traveling with Recent COVID-19 Infection: How to Get a ‘Documentation of Recovery’ Letter to Be Cleared to Travel

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all parts of the world and air travel increasing the chance of contracting COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just published new rules for international travelers returning to the United States. 

On December 6, 2021 the CDC required every traveler over the age of 2 years to have a negative COVID test (PCR or antigen) to be flying to the United States. The test needs to be done within 1 day of travel (the day before the travel is sufficient, even if more than 24 hours have passed).

[Update: As of June 6, 2022, the CDC now no longer requires a negative COVID test to fly to the United States. However, note that each airline may have their own requirements and a negative COVID test or Documentation of Recovery in case of a positive test may still be needed to travel].

What if I Had a Recent COVID-19 Infection and Need to Travel?

One of the issues with recent COVID-19 infections is that a patient may still test positive for weeks after the infection has resolved. A positive COVID-19 test in a patient with no more symptoms who recovered from COVID likely means that the test is detecting non-infectious virus fragments and the patient is not infectious anymore. However, since the CDC now requires a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test for all returning travelers, this will cause issues to anyone who recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection and wishes to fly to the United States.

Thankfully the CDC is aware of this dilemma and therefore allows recovered COVID-19 patients to return to the US under the following conditions:

  • Met the criteria to end self-isolation (see below)
  • Proof of a recent COVID-19 infection (a positive COVID-19 PCR or antigen test result–home tests (self-tests) are not valid
  • Letter from a healthcare provider that you have been cleared for travel (‘Documentation of Recovery‘)

This will allow international travelers to return to the United States, even with a positive COVID-19 rest.

What Are the Criteria to End Self-Isolation

To get a Documentation of Recovery you will need the following:

A positive COVID result done within the last 90 days (PCR or Antigen) by an official lab.
Home tests and antibody tests are not accepted. Antibody tests and COVID home tests (self-tests) cannot be used as proof of positive COVID test unless PROCTORED.

QuickMD providers do not conduct proctored COVID exams for patient’s at-home tests

Patient’s will need to quarantine 10 days since their official positive COVID test despite vaccination status as per CDC’s guidelines (updated March 2022)

As per QuickMD’s policy, patient’s will need to quarantine 10 days since official positive COVID test despite symptom start date. (updated May 2022)

End of self-quarantine/isolation and eligibility to travel under the following conditions:
-24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
other COVID-related symptoms are getting better
-Please note that the Documentation of Recovery is based off the collection date. Additionally, always check with your individual airline and government, as they may have stricter rules than the CDC isolation requirements.

*note that most doctors who provide a documentation of recovery to you will use the date of your COVID test rather than symptom onset, as the latter cannot be verified reliably.

How Do I Obtain a ‘Documentation of Recovery’ to Be Cleared to Travel?

This note can be obtained from a licensed physician or health official and needs to state that the traveler has recovered from the COVID-19 infection and is no longer infectious and cleared to travel.

QuickMD has long been specializing in travel-related care, like travel prescriptions (e.g. for traveler’s diarrhea, malaria) and doctor’s notes for travel (i.e. fit to fly notes, documentations of recovery). All QuickMD doctors can provide you with the required letter to clear you to travel–as per the CDC requirements.

To obtain a CDC-compliant ‘Documentation of Recovery Letter’, please book an appointment with one of the QuickMD doctors to connect with them either via video or phone. The cost for the telemedicine visit is $75, which includes the ‘Documentation of Recovery’. Shortly after your consultation, the note will be emailed to you in PDF format (printed on our official letterhead, as required by the CDC). See the Washington Post article describing the process of receiving this document through QuickMD.

January 28, 2021

Articles on this website are meant for educational purposes only and are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Do not delay care because of the content on this site. If you think you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call your doctor immediately or call 911 (if within the United States).

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